The Common Good

Religious border crossing

Sojomail - February 20, 2002



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+++++++++++++++++++++++ 20-February-2002 ++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
++++++++++++++++++ Religious border crossing ++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k
     *Teddy Roosevelt addresses today's politicians

 B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
     *Dancing to a different beat

 F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
     *Linking oil...hmm, drugs...and terrorism

 B u i l d i n g   A   M o v e m e n t
     *Rabbis for Human Rights: Stop demolition of Palestinian homes

 B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
     *Be part of history...8:02 pm on February 20

 S o j o C i r c l e s
     *SojoCircles turns 49!

 T e c h   E t h i x
     *Steps for protecting your privacy online

 P. O. V.
     *Salman Rushdie: Anti-Americanism takes the world by storm

 S o u l   W o r k s
     *Fe-wording a Fible ftory

 P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
     *Christians leaving West Bank

 B o o m e r a n g
     *SojoMail readers hit reply


Q u o t e   o f   t h e   W e e k

"Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an
invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging
no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible
government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt
business and corrupt politics is the first task of the
statesmanship of the day."

             - Theodore Roosevelt, on April 19, 1906
               (note: there are no reports of Enron
               gifts to the Roosevelt campaign)


B a t t e r i e s   N o t   I n c l u d e d
Dancing to a different beat

by David Batstone

The search for spiritual connection today takes many along
a path that blurs the boundaries of traditional religions.
The spiritual roots of this quest in the U.S. can be traced
legitimately back to the transcendentalists, a school of
thought influential among New England writers in the mid-1800s
that included such luminaries as Ralph Waldo Emerson and
Henry David Thoreau.

Nearly a century later the Beat generation brought the
blending of religious paths to the mainstream. Although their
writing methods and brazen lifestyles were deemed downright
quirky in the 1950s, the collective aesthetic of Jack
Kerouac, Gary Snyder, Michael McLure, Allen Ginsberg, and
friends deeply mined Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity
in their search for the sacred.

The Beat writers were far from saints. But it's
worthwhile paying attention to the undercurrents of
spirituality they uncovered in American culture. Astute
social observers of the '50s depicted post-war America as a
"one-dimensional society" run by "organization men" who
produced mass culture for the consumption of "lonely crowds."
What was "real" was defined uniformly, and any retreat from
that standard was considered akin to treason. "What is good
for GM is good for America" ran the slogan that dictated
behavior from the economic to the personal.

The Beats hungered for connections with the most beaten
down by society. In that respect, their movement was a
spiritual protest, "not to arrive but to travel, and in
the process, to transform into sacred space every back alley
through which they ambled and every tenement in which they

Jack Kerouac, arguably the most influential of the bunch,
assembled a laundry list of "essentials" - attitudes and
techniques that he considered essential for being awake
spiritually to the world. They are signs pointing toward what
spiritual seekers in our own day value as well. In my new book
I describe 12 "essentials" for today's seekers, but for
brevity's sake I'll only list a few here:

*"Submissive to everything, open, listening." Seekers
today are not interested in dogma; they look for truths
that resonate with their own experience.

*"Accept loss forever." Today's seekers don't consider
ambiguity and doubt retreats from faith, but a part of
the journey.

*"In praise of character in the bleak inhuman loneliness."
Seekers understand suffering as a bond through which we
touch each other. The only real disaster is a lack of
connection to the Spirit that links us.

In sum, many spiritual seekers are on a quest for awe
and wonder that gives meaning to their place in a
bewildering world. The key, advised Kerouac, is to
"live fully in the dignity of your experience, language,
and knowledge," and the right connections will follow.
The dream: to reenchant the world.


This column is excerpted from a new book, "Religions/
Globalizations," edited by David Batstone and Lois
Lorentzen, et al. For more info on the book, go to:
(search under "Religions/Globalizations")

or order at
(the site for independent booksellers online)


F u n n y   B u s i n e s s
Just say go!

by Mark Fiore

A new twist on the U.S. government's Superbowl anti-drug ads
that linked drug buying to terrorism. Brought to you by the
Equal Time for All Addictions Advisory Board.


B u i l d i n g   A   M o v e m e n t
Rabbis for Human Rights: Stop demolition of Palestinian homes

Israel radio's weekly opinion polls reported some
surprising numbers: more than 50% of Israelis now believe
that Israel is acting immorally in the territories. As
the radio commentators tried to understand this, they
concluded that there has been a trickle-down effect from
the stories that have started to come out about Israeli
Army abuses in the West Bank and Gaza. The same poll
found that more than 30% of the population now support those
soldiers who are refusing to serve in the territories.
This shift in opinion is cataclysmic in Israeli society,
where even those Israeli Jews who criticize government
policy have traditionally opposed conscientious
objection. These two statistics show that something is
happening in Israel.  As angry and traumatized as Israelis
understandably feel after a year and a half of Intifada,
the population is regaining its moral compass.

Now for the bad news. Jerusalem Mayor Olmert has vowed to
demolish homes every week. Rabbis for Human Rights did
their best to make sure that all families whose homes were
targeted for demolition were represented and obtained court
delays. However, this did no good for Bassem Shveiki, whose
home was demolished despite a court restraining order.
Even if Rabbis for Human Rights can help those families
who notify them in time, the next demolition could take
place at any moment.

Please write to Mayor Olmert to stop the demolition of
Palestinian homes, and send copies to Rabbis for Human
Rights. It's urgent.

Mayor Ehud Olmert: Kikar Safra 1, Jerusalem, Israel;
Phone: 972-2-629-7717; Fax: 972-629-6014; email:

Send copies to:

To find out more about Rabbis for Human Rights, go to:

To read more about the refusal of more than 100 Israeli
Army reservists to serve in the West Bank and Gaza, go to: 
(registration required)

*********************** ADVERTISEMENT ***********************************

"A Moral Response to Terrorism: Conscience in a Time of War" is a
new study packet by the editors of Sojourners magazine. This
5-session, 48-page study guide - designed for use in
classrooms, Sunday school sessions, small groups, and study
circles - is now available. For a table of contents or to
order your copy, go to:


B y   t h e   N u m b e r s
Be part of history...8:02 p.m. on February 20

Stop whatever you are doing at 8:02 p.m. on February 20 this
year and commemorate an historic moment in time. It will
not be marked by the chiming of any clocks or the ringing
of bells, but at that precise time, on that specific date,
something will happen that has not occurred for 1,001
years and will never happen again.
As the clock ticks over from 8:01 p.m. on Wednesday, February
20, time will, for 60 seconds only, read in perfect
symmetry: 2002, 2002, 2002, or to be more precise - 20:02,
20/02, 2002. This historic event will never have the same
poignancy as the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th
month that marks Armistice Day, but it is an event that
has only ever happened once before.

The last occasion that time read in such a symmetrical
pattern was long before the days of the digital watch
and the 24-hour clock at 10:01 a.m. on Jan. 10, 1001.
And because the clock only goes up to 23:59, it is
something that will never happen again.


S o j o C i r c l e s
SojoCircles turns 49!

That's 49 different locations around the globe where
you can meet with others to discuss, pray, study, and
hope. We're hearing reports from members of existing
groups that SojoCircles are becoming the only place
where many are able to share their views on the war
in Afghanistan and the possibility of a wider war
among those with the desire to see the world from a
faith perspective. Our newest Circles:

Whitehouse Station, NJ. Ron Messenger:
Lakewood, CO. Kathi Worthington:

For a complete listing of SojoCircles, go to our website
at Not one in your area? Consider starting
your own by contacting us at or
calling us at 800-714-7474.


T e c h   E t h i x
Steps for protecting your privacy online

This new site, a joint effort by several established
consumer privacy groups, offers practical advice for
protecting your privacy on the Net. The site includes a
section on protecting children's privacy and a collection of
links to other privacy resources on the Web.


                       SOJO _ _ NERS magazine
                         What's missing?
                               U R!
Subscribe today and read "The magazine for thinking Christians."


P. O. V.
Anti-Americanism takes the world by storm

by Salman Rushdie

America did, in Afghanistan, what had to be done and
did it well. The bad news, however, is that none of
these successes has won friends for the United States
outside Afghanistan. In fact, the effectiveness of the
American campaign may paradoxically have made the world
hate America more than it did before.

For Rushdie's entire column, go to:,3604,645562,00.html


S o u l   W o r k s
Fe-wording a Fible ftory

Feeling foolish and frisky, a feather-brained fellow
forced his fond father to fork over the family finances.
He flew far to foreign fields and frittered his fortune,
feasting fabulously with faithless friends. Finally
facing famine and fleeced by his fellows in folly,
he found himself a feed-flinger in a filthy farmyard.
Fairly famished he fain would have filled his frame
with the foraged foods of the fodder fragments left by
the filty farmyard creatures.

"Fooey," he said, "My father's flunkie fare far fancier,"
the frazzled fugitive found feverishly, frankly facing
facts. Frustrated by failure and filled with foreboding,
he forthwith fled to his family. Falling at his
father's feet, he floundered forlornly, "Father, I have
flunked and fruitlessly forfeited family favor."

But the faithful father, forestalling further flinching,
frantically flagged the flunkies. "Fetch forth the
finest fatling and fix a feast." But the fugitive's
fault-finding brother frowned on the fickle forgiveness
of the former folderol. His fury flashed.

But fussing was futile, for the far-sighted father
figured such filial fidelity is fine, but what forbids
fervent festivity? The fugitive is found! "Unfurl the
flags, with fanfares flaring! Let the fun and frolic
freely flow! Former failure is forgotten, folly is

Forgiveness forms the foundation for future fortitude.


The inaugural gathering of WORD AND WORLD: A PEOPLE'S SCHOOL
will be held in Greensboro, NC, April 13-21, 2002. The main
theme of this first school is the African American Freedom
struggle as it shaped the second half of the 20th century.
WORD AND WORLD is a popular institute designed to address the
need for theological pedagogy "between the Seminary, the
Sanctuary and the Street."

Contact: Deborah Lee
Tel: 520-670-9048 


P o l i t i c a l l y   C o n n e c t
Christians leaving West Bank

by Dina Shiloh

"Palestinian Christians are caught between a rock
and a hard place," [Rabbi David Rosen] says. "For
decades they have been a declining population. They
have always been more mobile, partly because they are
of a higher socioeconomic level and partly because
Christian communities abroad have absorbed them."

"But the growing Islamization of Palestinian society
makes Christians very uncomfortable. This is a
major factor for people leaving now. Another reason...
is that most Palestinian Christians rely on tourism
for their livelihood, and this year there are no

To read the entire feature, go to:

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B o o m e r a n g

Rabbi Mark Kiel writes from Teaneck, New Jersey:

Re: Jim Wallis' column on the re-launch of faith-based

If the faithless were on the boards or committees of
religious groups giving away money for the needy, it
would be reassuring to those who are skeptical to the
extreme that faith-based initiatives can work justly.
By faithless I mean persons not part of the group
receiving the money and not of the same faith. The
process for appointing such individuals to monitor
distribution of funds has to be carefully scrutinized
by an interfaith committee and/or a social justice
oriented group, say representatives from the ACLU,
labor movement, or a secular group opposed to the faith-
based initiative in the first place.


Dr. Raymond Moreland writes from Frederick, Maryland:

Tell me, what is the difference between the barbaric mindset
of fundamentalist radicals called Talibans and al Qaeda and
the mindset of a person like Ann Coulter in your quote of
the week? Absolutely none.

As usual, history tells the sad tale of those who have
used extremism even in the name of Christianity to propagate
their own agenda - it happened in the Crusades; it
happened at the Inquisitions and it is still alive in the
spirit and words of persons who write and think like Ann
Coulter. May God have mercy on all of us if we have moved
to this kind of stupidity. Violence begets violence - and
this kind of thinking from Coulter begets more violence.

Jeff Crum writes from Warren, New Jersey:

Ann Coulter's quote of the week was not only extremely
disturbing and bordering on fascism, but I do not even
think she understands what college liberals stand for
today. As a college "liberal" I support freedom of
religion, non-violence, equality for women, and democracy.
It appears to me that the Taliban, and I'm assuming
John Walker, fought against these ideas and values.
Perhaps Ms. Coulter should realize that not everyone
who differs from her beliefs is a liberal, and in fact
her quote more resembles something spoken by a Taliban
member than a college liberal.


Denise Roy writes from Palo Alto, California:

Thank to Rose Berger for her wonderful column in
SojoMail (02/06/02). It describes so much of how I've
been thinking/feeling these days. In some ways, it
feels like déjà vu....
Way back in the early 1980s, when I was one of two women
at a Jesuit seminary in Berkeley, California, I took a class
from Daniel Berrigan on the Book of Revelation. At the time,
I was a brand-new mother, terrified that my baby would not
grow up in this world. I asked myself the meaning of
Christian hope in an "end time"...the nuclear clock of
atomic scientists was, at the time, set to one minute
until midnight. I ended up writing my M.Div. thesis using
the image of Revelation 12, the woman giving birth in the
face of the dragon, as an image for such hope. Without my
knowing it, my adviser sent it in, and it was published as
a small book, "Bringing Forth in Hope: Being Creative in a
Nuclear Age" (Paulist last name at the time
was Priestley). I went around to churches talking about
the Bishops' Peace Pastoral, and became very familiar with
the just war theory, which I argue really doesn't work in a
nuclear age.
I was a grateful Sojourners subscriber way back then,
and recently I have renewed my subscription to your magazine
as well as to SojoMail. My husband is the academic dean at
the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology here in Palo Alto
(he is also a former Jesuit). He is starting a peace psychology
symposium here, and using Sojourners/SojoMail materials as
part of that. What a gift these are to our world.
Your work makes me feel less alone.


Amrita Burdick writes from Kansas City, Missouri:

It troubles me that among those who believe
in one God - of whatever faith - there are always some
who try to say that those who worship God in another faith
aren't worshipping the same god! That is, of course by
definition, impossible. There may be disagreement about
how one worships God...but quite frankly I think we
are going to have to go to that Source to get the
definitive answer on the question of the correct way
to worship and had better spend time attending to the
mote in the eye of each of our own traditions. That
some say God, and some say Yahweh (or don't mention the
Name at all) or some say Allah or Ahura Mazda (in
the Zoroastrian tradition) is all part of the varied
texture of our humanity and I for one am grateful for
these rainbows of celebration.
Bob Douglas writes about the use of the term "unbelievers"
in the Quran. His quotes are correct; however, he is
incorrect in equating that term with Jews and
Christians! Belief has a somewhat different meaning in
the Islamic tradition than the world "creed" in the
Christian traditions, which implies that all those who have
another opinion are outside that particular community.
There may (unfortunately) be some "unbelievers," that is,
hypocrites or those actively working against the revealed
traditions within all the various traditions of the world.

In the Quran, Jews and Christians are "People of the Book,"
or "People of the Earlier Revelations." It is specifically
mentioned that among Jews, Christians, and the "Sabians" -
those who believe in God and the Last Day and who do good
works - are people of paradise (5:69). Muslims are asked
not to choose Jews or Christians as their allies in
*preference* to other Muslims but they are permitted alliances -
including marriage, to Jews or Christians (5:5). This by
itself decisively includes the people of earlier traditions
among the believers, for an "unbeliever" is not a legitimate
spouse for a believer and many marriages from the "Time of
Ignorance" were annulled when one spouse joined Islam and
the other remained a worshipper of the pagan "gods."


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